Bringing houseplants back indoors

Harvest time heralds the time when houseplants that have been outside all summer should be brought back inside. Rooms that have been spare and cool because the plants have been gone become warm and welcoming as full plants come back in to enhance decor for the winter.

The time to bring in plants is two to three weeks before you plan to turn on the heat, and certainly before your first frost date. Loosen pots from their outside summertime situation, prune any leggy growth, and move them closer to the house — under shelter. Check for pests in two ways. Top growth can be sprayed with a hose so anything living among the leaves gets knocked off. Each root-ball can be submerged for a short time in a bucket of water to send all resident critters scurrying for more appropriate living quarters. Inside, if an errant bug is found, you can quickly dispense with it by using a bug spray for houseplants.

This “transfer time” presents a wonderful opportunity for you to make sure your plants are growing under optimum conditions — the best pot, the best soil, and the best place. Sometimes, you’ll discover that there is now more than one plant in the pot and you can separate the sections. In any case, pull the root-ball out of the pot, and check root growth. If a web of roots is obviously growing around the outside of the ball of soil, re-potting is appropriate. If you want more growth and a larger plant, choose a clean pot just one size — and never more than two sizes — larger. Or, use the same pot to maintain the same size plant.

If soil is crusty and looks tired and worn, gently rinse it away and tuck fresh potting mix in and around the roots and sides of the plant as you center it in the pot. Maintain at least a half-inch of space between the top of the root-ball and the top of the pot to allow watering space.

Understanding a little bit about potting mix is helpful in caring for your houseplants. Roots need a light and airy mix in order to take full advantage of needed drainage and aeration. Compacted, crusty dirt will do nothing to promote top performance, whereas a premium or professional soil mix allows for maximum growth and development. Roots should never have to struggle to supply your plant with nutrients, and by using a premuim potting mix — your plants are assured of success for it is designed to please the roots. It is a nutritious growing compound that contains a blend of forest products, Canadian sphagnum peat, horticultural perlite, a wetting agent  to ensure strong and vigorous growth.

Once all top growth and root zones have been checked, groomed, and refurbished, it’s time to bring the plants inside. The reason it’s good to do this before the heat comes on is that you can still have windows open and good air circulation around your plants even after installing them inside your home. The more gradually you can introduce them to inside conditions, the more likely they are to adapt and keep on growing.

Natural outdoor conditions have included high humidity, air circulation, and cooler night temperatures. Plants are accustomed to those growing parameters, so the closer you can approximate them, the happier plants will be. If some leaves drop, don’t worry. The plant is just establishing a natural balance between what leaves can manufacture based upon available light and how the roots absorb nutrients.

Ferns, palms, and many cactus are quiet in the fall but will spring back to life as days lengthen again. All plants have rest cycles, as well as growth spurts. They need less water and less warmth when they are not actively growing, and you’ll get to recognize these phases as you get to know your plants.

Water faithfully. Most plants thrive with thorough saturation of the root-ball followed by the opportunity to dry out. Make sure not to over-water! Feel the soil to make sure it needs water before you supply it in excess.

Use water that does not contain flouride or chlorine. Don’t use chemically “softened” water. These additives that help humans tend to throw off plant balances. To your pure water, you can add liquid plant food drops (houseplant food). There are also balanced foods, as well as special soils, for orchids, African violets, cactus, and azaleas and camellias.

The addition of plants to your indoor settings adds a softness, a graciousness, a warmth to your home that is hard to achieve in any other way. It says you care about beauty. These little luxuries are a cinch to maintain and a joy forever!